A tune-up is something that car with a non-electric ignitions need to go through either every year or every 10,000 miles or so. If your car has an electric ignition and maybe a fuel injection system it should be all right for 25,000 to 100,000 miles.
A tune-up makes sure that your car is working at its peak and if you only travel for short distances or you pull a trailer (for example a boat or camper) it may be that your car needs to be tuned more often than the norm.
You can probably tell if the car is not working to its peak, but here are a couple of things to watch out for.
- A stalling engine, which will be a problem if you need to move away quickly from the lights or similar. This may be due to worn spark plugs; it’s recommended that they should be replaced. Or it could be from a weak battery or maybe a faulty electronic component. Generally a car stalls of extremes of hot or cold, but if you can’t find the problem it’s best to have a mechanic look at it.
- Engine running rough. This is when shaking and bouncing happens more often than you might reasonably expect. Again it may be linked to the spark plugs but it could also be a vacuum leak (a car is full of a number of hoses for air to travel through and these may have become worn) or dirty parts.
- Black smoke from the carburetor. Only older vehicles use carburetors and black smoke is a sign something is wrong. A carburettor cleaner should be employed to remove excess amounts of carbon from this part of the car.
An engine working to its best of its ability shouldn’t make excess noise but it’s just possible that it is caused by tyres rubbing against metallic parts or something similar.
When you tune up your car you should begin by checking the oil. Helpfully for the beginner the cap in the engine is marked “oil.” Only do when the car has cooled down. The dipstick should be wiped with either a rag or a paper towel. If the towel looks especially black or it has noticeable “chunks” the oil may need changing.
Put the dipstick back and remove it for a second time. You should be able to notice the notch on the dipstick which tells you how full the oil compartment should be. If it’s noticeably low add oil to the engine, making sure that the oil is of the right quality and the right type for you engine. It’s best to use a funnel in order to avoid spilling the oil. Ask if you don’t know what kind of oil is appropriate.
Next move onto the tires, are they at the right pressure? You should be able to find a pressure gauge at most garages. It is best not over-inflate the tires.
Other fluids such as brake fluid and radiator fluids should also be checked. You should next check the battery, brakes and lights. Looking at these items is especially important if you are traveling a long way, but should be part of your regular routine. People do forget though.